China's Trial by Fire

The Shanghai War of 1932
Donald A. Jordan
A vivid account of Japan's war on China in 1932


China's Trial by Fire presents the balanced history of how, ten years before Pearl Harbor, Japan tested modern China in a thirty-three-day war, now known as the Shanghai War of1932. Often obscured by the larger World War II, this history details how the Chinese fought from trenches against Japan's modern bombers and navy, and formed a defense that brought the country together for the first time.

Unlike other histories' brief generalizations of the incident, this study traces the war from the initial January 28th Japanese marine raid on Chinese Shanghai. It also studies the roles played by the prevailing Japanese leaders, including the last prewar civilian Prime Minister, Emperor Hirohito, and Admiral Nomura, who was later assigned to pre-Pearl Harbor negotiations.

Not least, the work bridges scholarly boundaries by highlighting the economics of China's leading trade metropolis, Shanghai; the desperate attempts of Chinese politicians and press to manipulate anti-imperialist and anti-Japanese propaganda; and the ways in which the failure of positional trench warfare against Japanese mechanized mobility provided lessons to German observers and the Communists.

Donald Jordan has drawn from as complete a range of primary sources as are available. Both the Nanking and Taipei archives, as well as resources from Tokyo, Settlement Shanghai's police records, Washington, the League of Nations, and London were researched.

Knowing how greatly the Nationalist defense in 1932 influenced the Chinese Communists expands the relevance for scholars of this illustrated study. Others, especially those curious about the U. S. entanglement leading to Pearl Harbor, will find much more than the story of a regional skirmish.

Donald Jordan is Professor of East Asian History, Ohio University.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . an important and enlightening work. By carefully reconstructing events that led to, occurred during, and followed the Japanese incursion into Shanghai, Jordan has created a first-rate history of a volatile city, an out-of-control military machine, and emerging national government, and a resourceful people. For military historians and those with an interest in Shanghai and in the Chinese Revolution, this book is a must."
    —Patricia Stranahan, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, American Historical Review, October 2003
  • ". . . Jordan's provocative and powerful study can be highly recommended not only for those interested in the history of East Asia, but also comparative military historians and scholars of international relations."
    —Rana Mitter, China Quarterly, 2002
  • ". . . this is a well-researched, multi-layered account of the Shanghai War of 1932. Jordan reveals this episode as important in its own right as one of the pivotal events of the Nanjing decade. At the same time, the incident is revealing of social, political, diplomatic, military and economic issues in the history of both China and Japan during this era."
    —Parks M. Coble, University of Nebraska, China Review, Volume 2: No. 1 (Spring 2002)
  • "Jordan's book succeeds in piecing together a believable account of events which have been the object of much factional historical writing. . . . Jordan has provided a good overview of the back-and-forth of the 1932 War and has shown its place in the context of China's internal struggles and its relations with Japan and the rest of the world. His work in pinning down a reliable account of the incident has created a challenge for the historians of the western encounter with China to assess the distorting effects of 'factional history' in relation to the Shanghai incident and the standard perceptions that have built on it over the last seventy years."
    —Kent McKeever, H-Asia
  • "By examining a wide range of Chinese, Japanese, and western primary sources Jordan has developed an insightful and detailed narrative of the Shanghai events of early 1932. . . . Recommended to all students of Sino-Japanese relations and to scholars interested in origins of World War II in Asia."
    —E. Bruce Reynolds, History
  • "In the light of Jordan's findings, it is no longer possible to treat the Shanghai War as a minor episode in China's clash with Japanese imperialism. Nor can one argue with confidence that the Ninjing regime lacked the resources and political skills to mount a determined resistance campaign. Jordan's book has therefore done much to illuminate this hitherto greatly misunderstood turning point in China's 20th century history."
    —Thomas D. Curran, Sacred Heart University, Journal of Asian History, Volume 36, No. 2 (2002)

Look Inside

Copyright © 2001, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 344pp.
  • 22 photographs, 10 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11165-7

Add to Cart
  • $94.95 U.S.